ImagesMagUK_June_2021 JUNE 2021 images 29 IS DECORATOR PROFILE When you nail it, it’s the joy of your life screen print transfers, you’re limited on the colours you can do: if you have [a design with] 10 or 15 colours, that’s not possible as we have a six-colour press. But if you have an intricate design with 15 colours and halftones, you could use DTF. The output is amazing. I’m always on top of what’s new out there and what’s going on.” More than a decorator Operating in B2B as well as direct to consumers, Ripples is dealing with increasingly large orders. Ola sees her role as offering more than just decorating services, however – instead, she talks about being in the business of brand building. “We don’t do anything majorly different, but it’s how we do it that makes us different. I particularly like ‘brand building’ because I always say that here at Ripples, we are into brand recognition and we do that through the creation of quality and affordable products.” She believes decorated garments and merchandise should be part of the marketing strategy for businesses of all sizes from the start. “It is the brand we are helping you to build, not just ‘Let’s decorate this garment’. I want to be someone that is consulting when you’re starting off a logo and doing all the designs and working on your brand guidelines. We want to also say, ‘Let’s see how that logo will look on uniforms even if you’re not ready for it now’ because there are some people who will come to us with an amazing logo, but we have to simplify it when it comes to embroidery or things like that. To me that really breaks my heart, because if this is what your brand is about, then you stick to it.” Learning curve With a law degree and no background in textiles, Ola taught herself everything from scratch. “I’ve always had a creative side which has helped, but for me it has been a learning curve. There were times when it was tough. You are left to figure it out, do test runs, but when you nail it, it’s the joy of your life.” It was also a challenge accessing more hands-on support in the Aberdeen area. “Down south, you have more printers and embroiderers, but up here you don’t have a lot of that so sometimes I’ve had to travel down to have training done.” While learning how to decorate garments, Ola also studied how to run a business, from taking a course in operations management with Open University to research online. She especially recommends Michael E Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Enterprise, for entrepreneurs. “You come in with a passion… you’re a skilled technician, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to run a business. It’s not just a hobby I enjoy doing, but building a business that I can pass on or sell at some point – a lifelong thing that I’m building – so I want to do it well and right.” With few garment decorators in the Aberdeen area, recruitment has also been “tricky”, Ola admits, but adds: “To be honest, I can recruit anybody because no matter who comes into our business here, we need to train from scratch. There may be some transferrable skills that might be great, but when it comes to the core job of printing, embroidery, design, there will still be a lot of training involved.” This will be easier in the future thanks to standard operating procedure (SOP) manuals that Ola put together when orders dropped in March 2020 at the start of the Covid pandemic. “It’s a fast-paced industry where everything is ‘go go go’, so for me that was a time to reflect.” As well as working on SOPs, she had time to focus on future strategy, customer relationship management and scenario planning, working with specialists such as Scottish sales and marketing consultancy Doqaru. “Now things are starting to open up, we are ready for anything.” From the beginning, Ola has sought to drive the business forwards by tapping into networking organisations such as the local BNI (Business Networking International) group and Aberdeen Business Network (ABN). “It was a challenge accessing the market,” she admits. “You hear deals are closed on golf courses or in pubs, but I don’t go to those places.” With Ripples set to grow its workforce and production, Ola hopes its success will inspire more women to enter the industry. “People think that the industry is just for guys. There’s a general lack of awareness.” As a mum with three young children, she concedes that it can be a challenge running a business like Ripples. “It requires long hours sometimes. The kind of business I’m building, it will require a lot of work. It is a hard-going industry, but for me it’s fun. There are a lot of ways I could show my creativity, but I’ve chosen this path and I’m sticking to it.” A printed face mask created for a sports centre in Inverurie Embroidered workwear for Scottish electrical installation firm Hutcheon Services The new premises provide more space for the team of five